How Failing at Marriage Made Me Happier

I’ve read stories about near-death experiences that change people, made them better somehow than they were before the scare. For me, it was a near-divorce that knocked me flat on my butt.

Failing at marriage, as painful as it was at the time, helped me learn how to be happier.

My mistakes made me more compassionate.

I played an active role in trashing my relationship with Jared. I hurt him in a hundred ways, big and small. Never once could I claim to be the victim of a bad marriage.

The guilt and shame of my mistakes weighed me down for months.

When they finally lifted, I was left with a scar of compassion.

I am slower to judge. I understand weakness and bad decisions because my own story is filled with them. I see good people make hurtful decisions and I remember my own trudge through the muck. I offer others what was given to me: faith in character despite actions.

I know that sounds like a diatribe about being a better person, but it’s not about being a “good” person. It’s about how being able to really see people makes it easier to coexist with them.

Having compassion makes me happier.

Anger and resentment weigh us down. They do more damage to us than to the people we think we are punishing with our judgment. It’s easier to let go of that crap when we can see ourselves, flawed and yet lovable, in someone else.

Facing being wrong showed me how much there was to learn.

I was known for having strong opinions. I would insist that I had invested a lot of thought and research into forming them, and therefore it made perfect sense for me to cling to and defend them vigorously. I was insistent because I was right.

Being right led me to the brink of divorce.

In marriage counseling, I had to hear all about all of the ways I had been wrong. In some cases, I had been wrong for years. The things I’d been sure I needed to be happy proved to be utterly useless in improving my life or my relationship.

I had to start over with brand new paradigms, behaviors, and tools.

I’m more likely to keep my mind open to other options and opinions now. I assume this makes me more pleasant to live with, but it also opens me up to new opportunities for learning. Come to find out, discovering new things makes me happier. It’s fun to find out something you didn’t know before.

I still struggle with my fear of being wrong, but I also know on some level, that getting it wrong doesn’t have to mean the end.

Disappointing people made me realize who matters most.

Telling Jared I thought I wanted a divorce was hard. Telling my parents, his parents, and all of our friends that we were splitting up was almost harder.

I had to face my own fears about disappointing everyone and being seen as a bad person. I was more afraid of what everyone outside my marriage was thinking than about what Jared thought or felt. But when the proverbial shit hit the fan and the dust began to settle, the only thing I cared about losing was Jared and the kids. I wanted our family. I wanted my relationship with my husband.

Ironically, as Jared and I started to put our marriage back together, people did share their opinions about me. Some of my biggest fears were realized: I was a disappointment to some and I did become a bad person to others.

I braced myself for the inevitable crush of being hated… but it never came.

Disappointing people didn’t kill me.

Being unliked didn’t kill me.

Not only didn’t it kill me, it really wasn’t all that bad. I still got to laugh and love and go out in public and eat food I liked and dance to my favorite music and pretty much go on exactly the same way as before. I learned that there were very few people whose opinions could affect my day-to-day life.

That freedom not only strengthened my marriage, it gave me the courage I needed to chase after my personal dreams.

When I find myself imagining what I assume people say and think about me, I try to stop and remember how irrelevant and unlikely those scenarios are. I imagine those other people getting out of their own bed, slipping their feet into their own slippers, and focusing on their own worries and people who matter most. I remember that none of the thoughts they might have in their own bedroom can change what happens in mine. I look at my shoes and affirm that I am the only one who has to walk around in them today.

I know it sounds silly, but doing that exercise gives me the guts to walk where I want.

Our failures give us room to rebuild.

Do I wish I could have gotten to where we are today without all of the pain Jared and I inflicted on each other? Absolutely.

But I’m grateful for the rebuilding that has taken place since our near-divorce.

I’m grateful for the humility that comes from falling on your face; life is a little sweeter when you realize how utterly fallible we all are. I appreciate the things I’ve learned that I wouldn’t  have noticed when I was certain I already knew everything. I’m glad to be able to worry less about what other people think of me.

I am not glad for having hurt my husband, but I am thankful for the lessons we’ve learned.

Of course, none of us gets it right all the time. We are, all of us, failures at some point in our lives. Probably more than once. If we’re lucky, these failures help us tap into our common humanity and we learn something along the way.

Have you been humbled by failure? Do you think any good has come from it?



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  1. M says:

    This post resonates with me so much. My husband and I had a rough patch and near divorce 7 years ago. It was all my fault and I think about it every day.

    It is so inspiring to see that you have found happiness on the other side of a really dark time.

    • Miss Britt says:

      Ouch. Reading your words about thinking about your own rough patch every day made me so sad for you. I wanted you to be beyond thinking about it!

      Then I realized that I still think about my own mistakes every day, too. Not for as long as I used to, and with a little more gentleness towards myself, but there is still a constant reminder every day.

      I wonder if either of us will ever not have that.

  2. Doreen says:

    Britt, I love your insight! Happy to have met you back in Highschool and still following your posts, pictures and thoughts…

  3. racheal says:

    “I’m grateful for the humility that comes from falling on your face; life is a little sweeter when you realize how utterly fallible we all are.”

    You know how incredibly special you are to me and so is your story.

    I am so proud of you and I am so proud of where you are and are going!

  4. Great and inspiring post. I left a career 8 years ago that I felt I was born to do, and it took me a long time to realize it was killing me. I felt like a failure for a while after I left, but have come to realize the door I walked out of led to so many better ones which opened…
    D.J. – The World of Deej’s most recent post: The Villas at Grand Cypress Resort

    • Miss Britt says:

      I have quit so many jobs that were a bad fit for me spiritually, and every time I’ve felt like a failure for not having the backbone to suck it up.

  5. Susannah says:

    “Our failures give us room to rebuild.”

    I think this is the phrase I’ve needed to hear for a long time. You are so right. This concept gives me the courage I’ve been missing. Thanks Britt.
    Susannah’s most recent post: There are sixteen question marks in this post…that should probably tell me something…

  6. Carly says:

    Oh my gawd have I been humbled. And I still do things on a weekly basis that later make me feel sheepish. I love this post because it basically spells out how to foster the common bonds of humanity.

    • Miss Britt says:

      It’s difficult to imagine you doing anything shameful, Carly. You have always just seemed so sweet and good-hearted to me! Guess that just goes to show we all fall. :-)

  7. So unbelievably powerful. I truly believe as a society that the one thing we are lacking most is grace. What a gift (albeit a difficult process) to have compassion and less judgment of others because of your experience.

    I failed at a marriage many years ago, and think about it often. But when I speak to others that I would assume think about it all the time, they don’t at all. Ironic, how we just assume those people are all consumed with our issues.
    Thank you for sharing your heart. I found myself nodding to every word.

    • Miss Britt says:

      I agree that grace is much needed. I so, so wish we would all practice listening and empathizing more than postulating and criticizing.

  8. This post really resonates with me. I did divorce my husband of 20 years (13 years ago), we had irreconcilable differences. There wasn’t any choice for me, when one person wants out of the relationship there isn’t much you can do to make them stay. We hurt each other for 5 years before we split up. What I learned from my first marriage is to always appreciate my partners love, overlook weaknesses, and live in the moment.

    Divorce when you have children continues to hurt year after year, holiday after holiday… I’m so glad you were able to reconcile your differences and restart your marriage.

  9. What an unbelievably brave post. Thank you for sharing. I always think I learn most from my failures and near failures.
    Corey Feldman’s most recent post: Red’s first show

  10. Megan says:

    This is such a great lesson. I only wish it could have been easier for you to learn. xo
    Megan’s most recent post: Help!

    • Miss Britt says:

      You and me both, sister. It’s too bad most of life’s most transformative lessons require massive amounts of pain.

  11. Dory says:

    This is so so so true. Tom and I were separated for almost a year in 2003. I even bought a house on my own. Then I realized that I was hurting so hard and all I could think about was needing my best friend, and I was pushing him away. We reconciled, and our marriage is 100 times better than it would have been. Thank you so much for sharing this, Britt.

    • Miss Britt says:

      Really? I would have never guessed that you’d been through that.

      It’s funny the stories people have that, and how easy it is to assume we are the only ones.

  12. kalanicut says:

    Britt I love your honesty. We all need to hear it.There is nothing like intimate relationships to show us where we need to buff off some rough edges. I am continually “shocked” (haa-haa) to realized that it is me who needs to change and that I have not performed in a particular instance very well. Such a disappointment, esp. for a perfectionist. But it certainly has taught me to relax my expectations, and grow up when needed.

    I read in a book once that you can have intimacy or you can have control but you can’t have both. We so often act out of control, which kills our chances for true intimacy with others. I think of that often. Thanks for putting this post out there and allowing us all to be imperfect and hopefully more loving and more receiving of love.
    kalanicut’s most recent post: Quick Cleaning The House

    • Miss Britt says:

      I think you’re right about intimacy and control being at odds with each other. I’ve also found that real intimacy in relationships tends to come after struggle.

  13. Miriam says:

    In March of ’05, Heath and I separated. He moved back home to Alabama, while I stayed here in Florida. We weren’t married at the time, but our time apart and the struggles we went through while we WERE apart (homelessness for me, “finding himself” for him) and the learning and rebuilding we did definitely made us a stronger team in the long run. We did get married shortly after I drove up to Alabama and retrieved him. I knew where he was supposed to be :D

    • Miss Britt says:

      It sounds like you guys were fortunate to have gone through some struggles BEFORE getting married. I’d bet it made your relationship stronger.

  14. nuala says:

    I am so glad I checked into twitter and found this link, and then followed it. I am about to embark on some serious counselling as well after nearly ruining my own marriage and its good to hear from someone who’s been in the trenches that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I am always worried about what other people think of me. It’s learning to let go of that that really scaresme and gives me hope at the same time. Thank you.

    • Miss Britt says:

      Glad you’re here. :-)

      Counseling can be very hard, but also very rewarding. I am SO grateful to have had time with a good counselor.

  15. Such a beautiful post & something that hits really close to home for me. It’s hard to see the good or the progress in the middle of such pains and struggles, but I can see them now and I’m so grateful I went through that fire. I’m a better person, more confident, more compassionate, more of so many things that I needed in my life . Thank you for having the courage to share this!
    Amanda @ Click. The Good News’s most recent post: Mia the Model

  16. martymankins says:

    Having gone through a divorce, there are many things you look at differently. Mine was a good deal my ex-wife’s fault, but I take a considerate amount of failing to see what her real issues were for years, trying to help in a lot of the wrong ways. I did some counseling sessions but my ex never did, which made it hard to work on things together. Part of our differences were not going to change, but at the same time, it might have made things better if she were willing to understand how we were both changing.

    I still have some failings in my current marriage, but the one thing that makes a big difference now is communication and often. And being a bit older helps, too.
    martymankins’s most recent post: Attended NAB 2012

    • Miss Britt says:

      I think examining a relationship that has ended is the hardest. We run the risk of admitting what we did wrong and facing doubts that it could have been “saved” somehow. I’ve never been divorced, obviously, but I have ended important friendships and it’s always painful to look back.

  17. Lisa says:

    I’m glad you are able to take good things away from all the pain you suffered, I’m just sorry you both had to go through it.
    Lisa’s most recent post: Who Finally Published a Life List?

  18. this is pretty much like me saying FUCK THE HATERS, right? same same?
    hello haha narf’s most recent post: Couldn’t Post This on the First

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